A Dose of Clannishness

Felipe Fernández-Armesto praises clannishness in a review of The Rule of the Clan by Mark S. Weiner in the WSJ.

The author musters a wide range of case studies of clannish behavior, from ancient Arabia, through medieval Iceland and traditional Scotland, to Wagner’s Nibelungen, Arafat’s Palestine, and the North Korea of Kim Jong Il.

I am reading the book now. Fernández-Armesto, a world historian with a strong multiculturalist bent, fails to mention that Weiner actually has interesting things to say about clannishness in more strategic places like Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Weiner aims to alert liberals to some of the problems of clannishness, from honour killing to feuding to Islamic fundamentalism. But Fernández-Armesto sees nothing to worry about. In fact, he likes clannishness.

All vertical structures, from clans to churches, that clasp, in a single embrace, people from contrasting and potentially warring economic strata will help us perpetuate stability and avoid the tumbrils.

No. Some associations are voluntary (civil society) and others are not (clans). The former are sources of liberty and the latter are not. That is the essential difference.

Fernández-Armesto’s multiculturalism blinds him to the ways that societies with a history of weak lineages and less clannishness (much of Europe, also Japan) became far more successful. I have no objection to clannish societies retaining the rule of the clan. But I do object to the multiculturalist idea that a dose of clannishness would help us in the West in any way.



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7 responses to “A Dose of Clannishness

  1. The book sounds interesting. Do you know of Michael Mousseau? He argues that the democratic peace can be explained by the transition from patrimonial societies to to contracting societies (which maps quite closely to clans vs. civil society). See for example: http://home.ku.edu.tr/~mmousseau/Mous_ISQ_Dec03.pdf
    Declaration of interest: I have an article coming out in Millennium that engages with Mousseau’s theory.

  2. Hi Martin, thanks for your interest in my book–and for noting the crucial difference between voluntary and non-voluntary associations that’s a central part of my argument. In case it’s of interest, I posted a response to the review this morning on my blog: http://worldsoflaw.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/in-praise-of-forced-marriage/. Cheers, Mark Weiner

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